Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Program regulations include a list of standard animal weights used to calculate whether a livestock operation qualifies as a CAO. The weights are periodically adjusted to reflect trends in contemporary production agriculture. The revised weights, approved in May 2017, take effect on October 1, 2019. They are detailed in Penn State Agronomy Facts sheet 54. Farmers have the option to use other average animal weights instead of the standard weights if there is sufficient documentation to support their use.
“We’re more than a year away from the implementation of the new standard animal weights, but, since developing and improving a nutrient management plan takes time, growers should start planning now to make sure that their farms are in compliance by fall of 2019,” said Redding. “We encourage growers to calculate their farms’ true average animal weights to ensure that nutrient management plans are appropriate for their operations. Otherwise, calculate plans with the new standard animal weights to see how they may affect classifications.”
CAOs are operations that have more than 2,000 pounds of animal weight (Animal Equivalent Units or AEUs) per acre of ground available for manure application. CAFOs are operations that have greater than 1,000 AEUs, or CAOs with greater than 300 AEUs, or an operation that meets a specific head count as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, regardless of the amount of acres available to spread manure.
Operations that become newly classified as CAOs or CAFOs due to the new standard animal weights must have their nutrient management plan approved before October 1, 2019.
Current operations classified as CAOs or CAFOs must amend their nutrient management plans with the new standard animal weights within the three-year lifespan of their nutrient management plan.
“While not all agricultural operations require a nutrient management plan, they’re a good idea, regardless of farm size,” added Redding. “Nutrient management plans promote viable farms and healthy waterways, while providing some protection from liability and helping to demonstrate the agriculture community’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”
More information is available at county conservation districts or with private consultants, and at the Nutrient Management Program (Act 38) website. Visit https://extension.psu.edu/programs/nutrient-management and search either “standard animal weights” or “agronomy facts 54.”
A brochure sponsored by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Ombudsman program that county conservation technicians, and others, will provide to farmers in the course of compliance outreach, is forthcoming.